Weekend Box Office: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Soars to $50M Bow; 'Nutcracker' Bombs
Elsewhere, Tyler Perry's first R-rated comedy 'Nobody's Fool,' starring Tiffany Haddish, opens in third place.
Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody is a box-office champion, soaring to a $50 million launch in North America, the second-biggest start of all time for a music biopic behind 2015's Straight Outta Compton ($60.2 million), even when adjusted for inflation.
Overseas, the pic rocked to $72.5 million for a weekend take of $122.5 million and an early total of $141.7 million.
The better-than-expected performance of the film — which stars Rami Malek as legendary frontman Freddie Mercury — is a fitting swan song for 20th Century Fox as it releases the final titles on its slate before disappearing as a stand-alone major Hollywood studio and being absorbed by new owner Disney. New Regency co-financed the $52 million biopic, with Graham King producing. Fox was in sore need of a high-profile release; Bohemian Rhapsody is its biggest domestic opening outside of Deadpool 2 in more than a year.
As fate would have it, Disney suffered a major miss over the weekend as the big-budget The Nutcracker and the Four Realms bombed with $20 million in the U.S. after costing $125 million to produce. It is the studio's lowest nationwide debut in more than two years, excluding nature docs. Disney, which commands more than 30 percent of 2018's market share, can certainly weather the loss, and will finish the year with the high-profile pics Ralph Breaks the Internet and Mary Poppins Returns.
Nutcracker placed No. 2, followed by Tyler Perry's Nobody's Fool, starring Tiffany Haddish. Perry's first R-rated comedy turned in $14 million, one of the lowest openings of his prolific career.
Both Nutcracker and Nobody's Fool drew withering reviews, garnering 34 percent and 25 percent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. Bohemian Rhapsody certainly wasn't entirely embraced by critics, but it managed to easily rock past its so-so Rotten Tomatoes score of 60 percent and become a crowd-pleaser.
Bohemian Rhapsody, which chronicles the rise of the iconic 1970s British rock band Queen, is the latest music-infused pic to prosper. It came in ahead of the recent $42.9 million domestic debut of A Star Is Born, which has earned north of $165 million domestically to date.
The biopic also survived plenty of drama during its journey to the big screen. Toward the end of production, helmer Bryan Singer was fired. Singer, who retains sole directing credit, was replaced by Dexter Fletcher. Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech and Mike Myers co-star, and Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, who still tour, were closely involved.
Nearly three decades after Mercury's death, Bohemian Rhapsody succeeded in drawing moviegoers of all ages. Among ticket buyers, 43 percent were age 18-34, while 52 percent were 35 and older. The gender split was nearly even (51 percent female, 49 percent male).
Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson isn't surprised. "I think it speaks to the universality and appeal of Queen's music across the generations," he says. "And I'm incredibly happy for Graham [King]. He fought for this movie for more than 10 years."
Disney's family-friendly, Christmas-themed Nutcracker, an adaptation of the iconic ballet and short story about a girl whose nutcracker doll comes to life, also suffered a troubled production.
Lasse Hallstrom helmed the film, although Joe Johnston was brought aboard to oversee major reshoots late last year (Johnston shares a directing credit). Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfayden, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren star, while American Ballet Theater ballerina Misty Copeland makes her big-screen debut.
Nutcracker fared better overseas, earning $38.5 million from its first 45 markets for a global start of $58.5 million.
"We were obviously looking for a stronger start," says Disney distribution chief Cathleen Taff. "The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition for many, and we'll see how the film plays out the next several weeks."
From Paramount, Nobody's Fool stars Tiffany Haddish as a recent parolee who tries to help her sister seek revenge on the man who bilked her. Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Mehcad Brooks, Amber Riley and Whoopi Goldberg co-star in Perry's film.
Holdover A Star Is Born, from Warner Bros., followed in fourth place with $11.1 million for a worldwide total approaching $300 million ($293.9 million).
Universal and Blumhouse's Halloween rounded out the top five with $11 million in its third weekend for a sensational domestic total of $150.4 million through Sunday. Internationally, it grossed $18.3 million for a foreign tally of $79.2 million and a global cume of $229.6 million.
Among other weekend contenders, Venom finished Sunday with a worldwide tally of more than $541 million.
At the specialty box office, Focus Features' awards contender Boy Erased, the gay conversion drama starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, posted the best screen average of the weekend — $44,000 — by taking in $220,000 in its debut on five screens.
A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike, opened in four theaters for an estimated screen average of $17,000-$18,000.
Sony Pictures Classics launched the documentary Maria by Callas, about famed opera diva Maria Callas, in four U.S. cinemas, reporting a screen average of $12,723.
Bodied, a rap contest comedy produced by Eminem, chose a somewhat larger footprint of 14 screens. The film, released by Neon, reported a screen average of $3,609. The pic is a multi-platform release with an accelerated YouTube window.